Bloody Sox

Red Sox Rants — and other random opinions about sports

Archive for the month “August, 2009”

Who are those guys?

After taking three of four games last week from the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox looked ready to re-establish themselves as a strong playoff force. Then they wilted in the heat of Texas and are now a half game behind the Rangers in the wild card race. This is not good, but all you needed to do was take a look at the lineup for yesterday’s 4 to 3 loss to understand what’s wrong with this team.

Five of the nine starters were not on the Red Sox three weeks ago!

  • Victor Martinez (Indians) was catching.
  • Casey Kotchman (Braves) was at first.
  • Alex Gonzalez (Reds) was at short stop.
  • Brian Anderson (White Sox) was in right field (subbing, of course, for the every ailing J.D. Drew).
  • And Junichi Tazawa (Pawtuckett) was pitching.

Of course, Martinez and Kotchman are quality professional ball players. Alex Gonzalex is a decent defensive short stop, but he’s no Nick Green with a bat! Brian Anderson — who? huh? And Tazawa was an amateur in the Japanese Industrial League just last year.

In other words, what the Sox have right now is not a team but a patch job. While I can’t blame general manager Theo Epstein for the moves that have brought in these players — what else was he going to do? — one can blame him for the team that came into this season and resulted in this situation:

  • Two years ago Theo signed the perpetually injured J.D. Drew to an absurd contract. Take away about 10 at bats during his two-plus seasons with the Sox and Drew is a complete washout for the kind of money he’s getting, and he is continually sitting on the bench with another physical problem. The guy is as fragile as 14-year-old girl’s self esteem.
  • Two years ago Theo brought in Julio Lugo to be the Sox permanent solution at leadoff hitter and shortstop. The Sox are now paying Lugo to play for the St. Louis Cardinals, and had to go out to get the light-hitting (and that’s really an insult to light-hitters) Gonzalez to stabilize the infield.
  • Surprisingly, Theo seems not to have noticed that Jason Varitek has had birthdays in each of the past seven years… That is, Varitek was clearly aging, but Epstein did little — and what he did was ineffective — to find and groom a replacement. Therefore he was forced to ship out Justin Masterson, who could probably have been moved from the pen to the starting rotation, to the Indians for Victor Martinez.
  • Rather than sign a genuine starting pitcher in the off-season, Theo tried to round out the rotation on the cheap with reclamation projects Brad Penny and John Smoltz. Smoltz is now gone and Penny has been mostly erratic, and certainly not chewing up innings.
  • For outfield depth, Theo signed local favorite and sentimental choice Rocco Baldelli. But Baldelli has a physical condition that prevents him from playing every day, which you think would have been a red flag given the likelihood that Drew would need continual relief from his duties. Thus you’ve got Brian Anderson in right field (and a week ago against the Yankees Kevin Youkilis in left field).

Some of these moves may be the result of ownership asking Theo to be careful this past off-season, given the economy.  After all, no one knew for sure if fans would even be able to continue to fill Fenway. But mostly these moves are just mistakes. With one or two better decisions, this Sox team could be competing with the Yankees right now.

(I hate to admit it, but Tony Massarrotti was right about signing Mark Teixeira — just think if the Sox had him and Yankees didn’t.)

The bottom line for me is that I now think it likely the Sox won’t make the playoffs this year. They just have too many holes and the few guys who can carry them — who HAVE carried them — just are not able to take the team on their shoulders this time (I’m talking about Jason Bay, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis).

But I do think the nucleous is here for a very good team. With a few more pieces, with a few new young guys from the farm system this team could be very dangerous next year. All it will take are two or three astute moves by Theo Epstein in the off season. Is he up to it?

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Youkilis on the loose!

Youk on the loose!

Youk on the loose!

How would you like to be 20-year-old Tigers’ pitcher Rick Porcello and see an angry Kevin Youkilis bearing down on you?! Well, maybe a dose of madness is what the Red Sox have needed, a way to expend the frustration of recent weeks.

The man everyone keeps trying to write-off, Mike Lowell, came into the last night’s game after Youk was ejected and only hit two home runs. There is only one reason (okay, maybe two) Mike Lowell isn’t the full-time DH on this team: Because there’s no way Theo wants to be paying Big Papi $13 million or so to be polishing the dugout bench with his ass. (And the second might just be Terry Francona feels more loyalty to Ortiz — though Lowell won him his second World Series championship.) But check out the batting statistics of the two:

  • In 349 plate appearances this year, Mike Lowell has 13 home runs, 57 RBI, and is batting .297.
  • In 434 plate appearances, David Ortiz has 15 home runs, 62 RBI, and is hitting a measly .220.
  • Both men have 23 doubles.
  • Lowell’s OPS is .836, Ortiz’s is .711.

There is just no rational reason Ortiz should be in the lineup on a regular basis and there’s every reason to keep Lowell’s bat active — THE SOX NEED OFFENSE.

Even against right-handed pitchers it makes sense to play Lowell as DH. Ortiz is batting .219, with an OPS of .707 against right-handers, while Lowell has a .301 average and and OPS of .807.

Theo Epstein needs to make this easy for Terry: Put Ortiz on the DL or designate him for assignment. Right now he is nothing but an anchor sinking this team — his bat is woeful, and he provides no position depth. His presence on the roster is why Kevin Youkili had to play left field in two games against the Yankees. It’s no wonder Youk is frustrated — just look at that face!!!

It’s time to write off David Ortiz’s remaining contract as payment for past performance.

Byrd to the rescue???

At the start of the baseball season, I wrote this entry, where I raised some questions about the Red Sox starting pitching:

I like the pitching on this team, though I’m not as high on the starting rotation as some. There are still many questions. Will Josh Beckett, coming off an injury plagued season, be able to regain the ace-level stuff he had in 2007? Will the remarkably resilient John Lester bounce back from the shit-load of innings he pitched last year, or will we see residual fatigue hamper his effectiveness? Will Dice-K be adversely affected by pitching in the WBC, and even if not, will he be a more efficient pitcher than in ‘08?  Is Tim Wakefield truly ageless, or will the years of flinging the knuckler finally catch up to him? Is the fifth starter spot truly filled with the combination of Brad Penny/John Smoltz/Clay Bucholz?

The wrong side of a few of those questions may eliminate the Sox pitching advantage.

Beckett has regained his ace-stuff , and Lester, after a slow start, has pitched much better. But the Red Sox appear to be on the wrong side of the rest of those question marks. Which is why they have signed Paul Byrd, who gave them some solid innings last year, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since being roughed up by Tampa Bay in the ALCS.

These are truly desperate times, and desperate teams rarely win.

What this team needs is not another aging pitcher, but youth. Here’s my prescription:

  1. Dump David Ortiz. He’s not just dead weight in the lineup, he provides no depth on the diamond — with him on the roster, they might as well be playing with 24 men.
  2. Bring back Josh Reddick and start him in right field in place of G.D. Dreadful.
  3. Send Smoltz to the bull pen and add Michael Bowden to the rotation.
  4. Make Mike Lowell the DH, start Kevin Youkilis at 3rd and leave him there.
  5. Play Victor Martinez 3 out of 5 games at catcher.
  6. Start Casey Kotchman at 1st base, except on those days Martinez is not catching.

Of course, this will not happen. The Red Sox are paying too much money to David Ortiz and G.D. Dreadful to relegate the first to the scrap heap and the second to the bench. Theo has already squandered enough of John Henry’s money this year (i.e. Dice-K and Julio Lugo). But a youth infusion is what this team needs, and it needs it soon if the Red Sox are going to be contenders come late September.

An interesting little discussion…

… between Joe Posnanski and Bill James about trades in baseball, here.

Let the V-Mart era begin!

Okay, so I guess this is all. The Sox add Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman. Of the current roster, they ship out Justin Masterson and Adam LaRoche. So the offense gets better, the pitching a little thinner. And the Sox keep both Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard.

So, while I’m not overly excited about the deals today, I can live with them.

The Sox could not afford to trade Buchholz unless they were getting Roy Halladay in return, because — and this is an irony given all the talk about the depth of the starting pitching — their rotation is very thin. Even now, I fear that this staff will not be good enough to get the Sox to the playoffs. Smoltz has yet to prove he can still pitch more than just a couple of effective innings a start. Penny seems to be fading, his best starts behind him. And even Buchholz has yet to demonstrate he can pitch past the sixth inning. The Sox will continue to need three or four relief pitchers in most games, and now the bullpen is short the one guy who could pitch a few innings at a time.

And this raises additional issues. The Sox will not live with just six relievers. They’ll replace Masterson, perhaps with Michael Bowden, which is going to require waiving one of their position players.

  • Jason Varitek – catcher
  • Victor Martinez – catcher/1st base/dh
  • George Kottaras – Wakefield’s catcher
  • Kevin Youkilis – 1st  base/3rd
  • Casey Kotchman – 1st base
  • Dustin Pedroia – 2nd base
  • Jed Lowrie – short stop
  • Nick Green – short/ 2nd
  • Mike Lowell – 3rd base/dh
  • Jason Bay – left field
  • Jacoby Ellsbury – center field
  • J.D. Drew – right field
  • Rocco Baldelli – outfield
  • David Ortiz – DH

One of those guys will have to hit the road when the Sox add a 12th pitcher. Kottaras is likely gone, but it will be interesting to see if the Sox will ask Martinez or Varitek to catch Wakefield. And this will still leave Boston with only one reserve outfielder.

Anyway, there are still a lot of questions left with this team, but they are better than they were yesterday. Will they be good enough to make a run deep into the post season. We will just have to wait and see.

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